Whether you’re already familiar with the intricacies of the TRX rig, or wary of that strange equipment hanging in the corner of the gym, it’s likely you’ll have at least thought about giving it a swing. But, honestly, how many of us can really say we know how to maximise this unique form of training without looking like a newb?
For the uninitiated, TRX is a form of suspension training that uses body weight exercises to develop strength, balance, flexibility and core stability all at the same time. It’s a great way to mix up your routine, and perhaps the most satisfying piece of equipment you can introduce to your standard workouts. Especially if you’re into functional training, because it’s the ideal bit of kit for working through the 10 key foundational movements: plank, pull, push, rotate, hinge, squat, lunge, crawl, twist and step – all of which can help you stay strong and flexible, whether your 9-5 is at a desk or on a rugby field.
Studies suggest that TRX training also promotes an increase in growth hormone and a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol. Yes, TRX is good for a bit of gym bro posturing, but it’s also beneficial for so much else. With that in mind, we asked Matt Gleed, TRX Senior Master Trainer, to talk us through what your body will get from hanging tough in the rig.
The Benefits Of TRX Training
“When using the TRX, you are working from a single anchor point which forces the body to recruit muscles across all planes,” says Gleed. Basically, the TRX equipment creates dynamic instability, meaning you’ll need to manually re-centre yourself through activating some of those under-appreciated muscles, which can help boost performance as well as physique. “Rotational and diagonal movements through the transverse plane are common in sports, but less practiced in gyms,” Gleed explains. Adapt your training to reap rewards.
Through every single TRX exercise, you will be challenging your core as the body fights for stability against the unstable, suspended base. “Core strength will improve with each session and working on exercises like the TRX plank encourages your muscles to strengthen,” says Gleed. He has the stats to back this up, too. “Muscle activation of the core is essential for the maintenance of proper posture, and researcher Dr Stuart McGill has found the spine to be up to 40 per cent more resistant to compressive loads while in a neutral position.” As you are in the TRX rig.
Lower Injury Risk
Because TRX forces you to focus on stability, you’ll work your muscles and core joints harder than just using stationary gym equipment. “At least 10 minutes of TRX training, 2-3 times a week can improve your neuromuscular activation and the use of your nerves and muscles, which can significantly reduce the risk of injuries,” says Gleed. Gleed points to studies that show TRX training can reduce lower limb injuries by 39 per cent, knee injuries by 54 per cent and ACL injuries by a whopping 88 per cent.
Prep For Big Lifts
TRX training will improve your ability to maintain strong positions required during lifts. “By using the straps as an aid, you can practice getting into lower or more precise positions to mimic the actions of a lift,” says Gleed. “The more familiar your body becomes preparing in these positions, the more efficient it will be when you add load.” Practising in this way has other benefits, too. You’ll also develop the ability to move through exercises more quickly, while being able to keep the body under more tension for a longer period of time.
3 TRX Exercises Everyone Should Know
TRX Plank Press
We’ll start you off easily enough. Working through your triceps, shoulders and chest muscles, this is an effective but (relatively tricky) exercise. The idea is to get into a plank position with your feet suspended in the TRX rig, then perform a push-up. “With your hands in a narrow position, it is a much more challenging version of the traditional press-up,” says Gleed.
Let’s break it down.
The key to getting this right is optimising the TRX position. In this instance, you’ll want the straps to reach up to your mid-calves, offering support without taking too much of your weight.
Now you’ve got your legs hooked up you’ll want to get into the usual plank position, with your palm on the floor underneath your shoulders. For the press, you’ll need to push through your palms, extending your elbows up into a high plank position before slowly lowering down with steady control.
Be warned, though, without your feet on solid ground to offer support you might find yourself wobbling through the more dynamic parts of this move, so make sure your core is held tight for stability at all times.
Try not to let yourself swing into the upwards movement, either. The press should be focused and come entirely from your shoulders.
Complete three sets of 10 reps to get your blood flowing, and your abs aching.
TRX Single Leg Hip Press
Now for something a bit more advanced. This exercise is a variation hamstring exercise designed to develop hip strength and improve athletic power. Get into position, lying on your back with your hands palm-down at your side. Then, take your right leg and slip it into the TRX hold, with the strap at mid-calf, again offering support without you needing to adjust your placement mid-exercise.
Now, lie back with your right knee over your hips to form a 90-degree angle. Keeping it bent and the knee with your foot on the floor, you’ll want to extend your left thigh towards the ceiling so that your bum and lower torso come off the floor. This is the tricky bit; try not to let your TRX-held right leg wobble as you push, or you’ll easily come off balance. The key is to maintain that 90-degree angle as you move.
To finish, slowly lower your bum to the ground again, keeping your body under tension. Once you touch the floor, explode back up, clenching your bum to hold yourself in position for a count of five before lowering down again. Three sets of 10 reps per leg (alternating legs per set) should do it.
TRX Inverted Row
Finally, it’s time to finish with probably one of the hardest TRX exercises going. “But remember, while it may be difficult, the TRX inverted row builds strength from a pulling motion and requires a lot of core tension and strength to perfect,” Matt says.
Before you start, you’ll need to over-shorten the TRX straps. This is simple enough to do, but think of it like tightening the width on a baseball cap or climbing harness if you’re having trouble working it out. Ideally, the TRX handles should hang just below chest height when you’re done.
Now, facing the handles (or ‘anchor’) lean back with your arms straight, the handles in line with your shoulders. With your feet flat on the floor, lean back slightly further until you’re almost laid horizontally in mid-air, your feet slid out in front of you, your arms maintaining the straight line to the handles.
Squeeze your shoulder blades together to activate the row, keeping your elbows pulled into your sides as you pull your body towards the handles. Try not to let your feet slip – engaging your core will help with stability.
With the handles held into your chest, slowly lower yourself back down until your arms are straight. That’s one. Keep your body alignment as you work through three sets of 10 reps.
A key issue people have with the TRX inverted row is coming off balance, or slipping forward, both of which can be due to sagging hips. To rectify this, pull your shoulders back and down, pressing the hips up while squeezing the glutes (try to grin and bear it after three sets of the hip press…)
There’s plenty there to be getting on with but if you fancy pushing yourself further, or expanding your repertoire for more challenges.